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Challenge Grants

Office of Challenge Grants

Receipt Deadline May 5, 2015

The deadline for this program has passed.

Updated guidelines will be posted in advance of the next deadline. In the meantime, please use these guidelines to get a sense of what is involved in assembling an application.

Brief Summary

The mission of the NEH Office of Challenge Grants is to advance knowledge and understanding in the humanities by strengthening the institutional base of humanities teaching, scholarly research, public programming, and other humanities activities. Challenge grants are capacity-building grants, intended to support significant humanities activities of high intellectual quality and to help institutions secure long-term support for their humanities programs.

Through these grants many organizations and institutions have been able to increase their humanities capacity and secure the permanent support of an endowment. Grants may be used to establish or enhance endowments or spend-down funds that generate expendable earnings to support and enhance ongoing program activities. Challenge grants may also provide capital directly supporting the procurement of long-lasting objects, such as acquisitions for archives and collections, the purchase of equipment, and the construction or renovation of facilities needed for humanities activities. Funds spent directly must be shown to bring long-term benefits to the institution and to the humanities more broadly. Grantee institutions may also expend up to 10 percent of total grant funds (federal funds plus matching funds) to defray costs of fundraising to meet the NEH challenge. Because of the matching requirement, these NEH grants also strengthen the humanities by encouraging nonfederal sources of support.

Applications are welcome from colleges and universities, museums, public libraries, research institutions, historical societies and historic sites, scholarly associations, state humanities councils, and other nonprofit humanities entities. Programs that involve collaboration among multiple institutions are eligible as well, but one institution must serve as the lead agent and formal applicant of record.

Program Statistics

In the last five competitions the Challenge Grants program received an average of 97 applications per year. The program made an average of 18 awards per year, for a funding ratio of 19 percent.

The number of applications to an NEH grant program can vary widely from year to year, as can the funding ratio. Information about the average number of applications and awards in recent competitions is meant only to provide historical context for the current competition. Information on the number of applications and awards in individual competitions is available from


Contact the staff of NEH’s Office of Challenge Grants at 202-606-8309 or at Hearing-impaired applicants can contact NEH via TDD at 1-866-372-2930.

Guidelines Resources

Download Application Materials

Budget Resources

Program Resources

Sample Application Narratives